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Joud Azzawi ’22 models a professional outfit during the Career Catwalk event.

Joud Azzawi ’22 models a professional outfit during the Career Catwalk event.

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Campus Life

‘Career Catwalk’ shows Pacific students how to embrace ‘authentic selves’ at interviews and work

‘Dress for success’ does not mean abandoning cultural identities
Nov 8, 2017

Ask any career counselor for tips about job interviews and most will tell you that it's important to "dress for success" as a candidate because your attire makes an immediate first impression.

Certainly, a professional business outfit is the rule-of-thumb when it comes to job interviews, but some job applicants may want to express their cultural identity during an interview and later in the workplace. Most career counselors probably don't have an easy answer for mixing and matching a career and cultural identity.

Counselors at University of the Pacific's Career Resources Center know that appropriate dress for job interviews can be a significant source of anxiety for soon-to-be graduates, so they came up with a way to ease that fear: a fashion show modeling professional, interview-appropriate clothing and hair styles that are inclusive of students' social and cultural identities. The Oct. 18 "Career Catwalk: Bringing Your Identities to Work" was on the Stockton campus at the Don and Karen DeRosa University Center. CRC partnered with Pacific's Intercultural Student Success Office for the first-of-its-kind event, which drew more than 100 students. Career Catwalk began with a student fashion show and concluded with a panel discussion among staff and community members who shared their perspectives on social and cultural identities at work. It was all made possible by financial support from sponsors that included Macy's, Dress for Success - Stockton, Natural Do Hair Salon, Charming Charlie's and Target.

"Students want to be able to demonstrate their identities through their attire, but also want to make sure it is professional for the workplace or any formal event," said Shannon Edminster, a CRC career advising and success specialist. "We came up with the Catwalk as a way to demonstrate how to wear your social and cultural identities in a professional setting. We specifically wanted to outline what looks can be appropriate, where to purchase them, and let students know what resources are available to help them on- and off-campus."

The event made a lasting impact on the students involved.

"I have learned to embrace my identity and not let dress codes stop me from expressing my true self," said Joud Azzawi '22, a pre-pharmacy major who was one of the models. "And don't be afraid to show who you are. You don't want to work for someone who doesn't allow you to bring your (whole) self to work."

Students responding to a survey after the event shared comments such as, "I feel comfortable in my own skin now, thank you," and "People have to be comfortable with themselves in professional circumstances."

Panelists, including representatives from CRC, Dress for Success - Stockton and Natural Do Hair Salon, shared personal stories and a wide range of advice for students. The also discussed state and federal legal protections to prevent discrimination in hiring practices, and suggestions on how to conduct research about the culture of an organization before applying or interviewing for a job.


Did you know about the Career Closet?

Business professional clothing is sometimes a cost that students may not be prepared for, so donations for CRC's Career Closet were also collected at the event. The Career Closet is a free resource for Pacific students who haven't had the chance to build a professional wardrobe. Career Closet offers a variety of business professional attire that students can borrow for job interviews or meetings with recruiters. The growing assortment of suits, skirts, ties, blouses, dress shoes and more has been built entirely though donated clothing and CRC could always use more.

"If you have gently used business clothing that is taking up space in your closet, we can put it to good use," Edminster said. CRC also accepts cash donations to help cover the cost of dry cleaning the clothing. All donations are tax deductible. For more information about the many free resources available at the Career Resource Center, visit www.pacific.edu/careers